Archive for December 10th, 2009


The persistence of mystery

December 10, 2009

Wired has a story about the hexagonal storm around Saturn’s north pole.

I love it. Things like this, the methane that comes and goes on Mars, the disequilibrium in Venus’s atmosphere, and transient lunar phenomena, are useful reminders that the other worlds of the solar system are, in fact, worlds. Our plumbing of the mysteries of these worlds, even for so comforting and familiar an object as the moon, is not even really started. There are plenty of physical processes here on Earth that are not well understood, so we should feel pride, but no comfort, that we have sent a handful of probes and gotten a little dust on the boots of our astronauts and the wheels of our rovers. Just think how much we’ll know after a geologist has spent as much time on Mars as Spirit and Opportunity. On one hand, our knowledge then will dwarf our knowledge now; on the other, our exploration of Mars will then be just beginning in earnest.

In Cosmos, Carl Sagan said, “How lucky we are to live in this time, the first moment in human history when we are, in fact, visiting other worlds.” I’m on board with that.

Hat tip to Mike.